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South Africa holidays

From the big game safaris to the penguin-patrolled white beaches, you’ll find a rich variety of places to visit in South Africa. This is a country of dramatic contrasts, which you can appreciate in its full glory along the Garden Route, a drive that takes you from the valleys of the lush Winelands to Cape Town’s craggy coastal cliffs. And that’s still just a fraction of all the things you can see here.  

Things to do

With 2,500km of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, the many beaches in South Africa never end. Watch the sunset at Cape Town’s Bloubergstrand Beach, try bodyboarding at Durban’s North Beach or get away from it all on the secluded, coppery sand of Sodwana Bay in KwaZulu-Natal. When you’re not swimming, sailing, diving and windsurfing, try shark diving to get exhilaratingly close to those great whites. Shark Alley is one of the top cage-diving destinations in the world and you don’t have to be a qualified diver to try it.

The country’s transition from divisive and unjust apartheid to a democracy with Nelson Mandela as president is one of the most remarkable events of the 20th century. South Africans are rightly proud of their leader and you can visit memorials to Mandela everywhere, from his modest house in Johannesburg to Robben Island where he was jailed for 18 years. With its fascinating mix of cultures and tribes, it’s no surprise South Africa is called the Rainbow Nation. 

South Africa is known for its fantastic safaris, but the whole country is also an exhilarating adventure playground. To get your heart racing, you can plunge from the world’s highest bridge bungee, fly on the fastest zip line in the world, or take a hot air balloon over the plains. And if you’re into golf, you’ll want to try your hand at Legend Golf Resort in Limpopo, home of what claims to be the world’s most difficult hole. You can only reach the tee of The Extreme 19th, at the top of Hangklip Mountain, by helicopter.

 

8°C - 33°C

If you’re planning on travelling to South Africa, get ready for dry, warm days followed by cooler nights. There’s also a noticeable difference in weather between the colder east (Indian Ocean) and warmer west (Atlantic Coast). 

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11 hours

Johannesburg International Airport (JNB) is Africa’s largest and busiest airport.

South Africa is best for...

Wildlife lovers: No trip to South Africa would be complete without a safari. Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa, and home to all five of the Big Five. And if that's not enough, there are also 20 other parks to explore.

History buffs: South Africa’s past is both interesting and varied. Visit the prison where Nelson Mandela was jailed for 18 years or stop by The Stellenbosch Village Museum, where houses have been beautifully restored to their former glory. Not forgetting a trip to Mandela House in Johannesburg, which is now a national monument.

Photographers: When you’re not trying your best to snap incredible shots of the wildlife, the scenery in South Africa is spectacular. Admire the unique diversity, from its vast savannas right down to its stunning mountain ranges and rugged coastline.

Fast facts for South Africa

 
Language: The most common languages spoken in South Africa are English or Afrikaans. But with so much cultural diversity, there are officially 11 including Zulu and the distinctive clicks of Xhosa.

Currency: The currency in South Africa is the Rand.

Local time: South Africa is 2 hours ahead of the UK (GMT+2). 

Fly to: Johannesburg International Airport (JNB) is around 14 miles east of Johannesburg. Most people tend to hop in a privately owned taxi, which takes around 45 minutes, while others prefer the convenience of the high-speed train, which takes around 15 minutes.

Flight time from UK: 11 hours

Tourist Information: Further tourist information can be found at South Africa’s tourism website.

Visa / Health: Before you travel, check the latest advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

 

South Africa safety and security

For up-to-date advice on travelling to South Africa, please visit the FCDO website.

South Africa weather

The most popular months to visit South Africa are from December to February. Or you can experience summer there in the southern hemisphere from November to March, where you can expect average highs of 28°C.

You’ll discover that summer is popular, but there are no bad times to visit the country, as the weather in South Africa is great all year round. It does have four distinct seasons, but they don’t vary too much. The winter is the low season and is a perfect time for watching wildlife. You will see the mercury fall, but you’ll also experience lower prices. Whale watching is best in the spring, while September is also a great month for the blossoming of beautiful wild flowers.

Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate of mild winters and pleasant summers. The highest temperatures of around 26°C are reached in January and February when you also get up to 11 hours of sunshine and balmy sea temperatures of 19°C, perfect for exploring, taking a dip in the sea or just lying on the beach.
The area around Johannesburg in the north has hot humid summers with the occasional thunderstorm and dry, sunny winters. If you’re visiting the nearby Kruger National Park, expect temperatures of 26°C in December and January and an average of around 10°C in June and July, though it can get as warm as 17°C.

On the eastern coast, Durban’s tropical temperatures can reach 32°C in summer and average around 16°C between June and August. Light rain is likely throughout the year but is heaviest in the summer, though it comes in short, sharp thunderstorms in the late afternoon and is unlikely to disrupt your holiday too much. The sea temperature rarely falls below 19°C so you can go swimming in the Indian Ocean in the middle of winter.

You can’t go wrong with Port Elizabeth on the southeast coast, which boasts one of the best climates in the world with dry and warm summers and mild winters. Average midday temperatures don’t vary much but range from 19°C in July to 25°C in February.